Subaru introduces facial-recognition technology to identify driver distraction, fatigue
Facial-recognition technology—to detect driver distraction and fatigue—will be introduced into mainstream production for the 2019 Subaru Forester SUV, which was exhibited at the 2018 New York Auto Show. Although most automakers and their suppliers are developing facial-recognition technology, Subaru said that when the 2019 Forester, the fifth generation, reaches the U.S. market in the Fall, it will be the first with this feature in an under $70,000 car.
The system, called Driver Focus, is standard equipment on the Forester Touring model. It is based on a center-dashboard-mounted infrared sensor, connected to an electronic module programmed to analyze the facial image. Center panel’s infrared sensor, along the top, performs driver identification. Display area just below confirms its selection. When a name is entered into memory, the system will identify the specific driver, from up to a choice of five people.
The sensor enables the control-module software to determine if the driver is looking to the side, instead of at the road ahead, a prime indication of distraction. If the looking-aside time is about 2 s, Subaru Car Line Planning Manager Todd Hill said that is a prime sign of distraction and an audible warning (a beep) will sound. The sensor also will detect driver fatigue, such as if the driver’s eyes are closed (beyond a blink) and sound a warning for that too.
The Driver Focus identification also is used to immediately reset the driver’s seat and exterior mirrors to the identified motorist’s preferred position, the climate control system to that driver’s last chosen interior temperature, and last-selected dashboard information display.
In addition to the audible warning, Driver Focus puts the front collision-warning system—Eyesight Drive Assist—into a “high alert” mode via a signal over a high-speed databus. Eyesight, which has been a Subaru feature since the 2013 model year, in its current configuration, incorporates a dual color camera mounted just forward of the rearview mirror to monitor road conditions ahead and to the sides. The control electronics can dethrottle the engine and apply full power braking in an emergency condition.